On August 14, 2020, Gerrit Cole threw 7 innings, 1 earned run and 8 strikeouts in a 10-3 victory over the Red Sox. While every Cole start in 2020 was a must-watch, this start had some extra intrigue because it was Cole’s first start as a Yankee against the arch-nemesis Red Sox. Needless to say, a lot of eyeballs were on the TV, and he did not disappoint.
With this backdrop in mind, Cole proceeded to his postgame press conference wearing a Max Verstappen Red Bull Formula 1 hat. This was the moment that sent my imagination racing. Gerrit Cole, one of the top pitchers in all of baseball, is a fan of one of the top racecar drivers on the planet. This is a marketing opportunity that MLB should pounce on immediately.
For those unfamiliar, here is some information about Max Verstappen. Verstappen is a Formula 1 racecar driver and has been seen as a top contender and championship-bound driver for years. At the moment this is being written, he is eight points behind the driver’s championship while his team Red Bull Racing simultaneously slightly trails the constructor’s championship.
This is a big deal because he is in a position to dethrone Lewis Hamilton, who has won the Formula 1 World Championship every year since 2017 (7 in total). To add to the drama, Verstappen and Red Bull were leading both championships until a very conveniently timed “accident” occurred a few short weeks ago. Max Verstappen is a must-see driver, on a must-see team, during a must-see season.
Why Is This A Good Idea?
In 2019, the Yankees and the Red Sox played in the first-ever London Series which took the sports world by storm. A second London Series was planned for 2020 with the Cubs and Cardinals, however was canceled by the Covid-19 pandemic. MLB does this because it wants to expand its influence into Europe. Formula 1 is an international, but mostly European enterprise. Red Bull Racing specifically, operates its headquarters out of the United Kingdom. The geography makes perfect sense to use Verstappen and Red Bull as a vehicle to help promote Cole and the Yankees to Europe.
Likewise, Formula 1 is trying to expand its outreach in the United States. One of their current ventures is to add a second race in the US, which will come in 2022 in Miami. While Miami is not particularly near New York, the Yankees are a brand with a national appeal and exactly the vehicle that Formula 1 might want to use to get more feet further in the door in America. Both Red Bull and the Yankees can offer mutually beneficial gateways for the other to continue their goals of expanding their brands.
At first glance, Ferrari would feel like the obvious choice for a team to promote in the US, especially with the Yankees, because of their striking similarities to the Yankees in their respective sport. Ferrari is the timeless, most winning golden child of Formula 1, with their reputation tied to one specific owner, and commonly associated with a traditional appearance and big money. Sound familiar?
On the other hand, Red Bull offers a new dimension that can complement the weaknesses of both the Yankees and MLB. Red Bull Racing, and more broadly Red Bull in general, use their extreme, adventurous, and youthful brand to their advantage in social media and other advertising. One thinks of action sports like skydiving, motocross, and rally cars when thinking of Red Bull. These things all appeal to the youth of the world, and they do it through successful and entertaining social media videos.
Red Bull has a firm grasp on the population that MLB needs to market and does it in a way MLB needs to improve. A partnership in Ferrari would promote the image MLB already has of being old and traditional. While this is accurate to the Yankee brand, it is the same message which that Yankees have been promoting for years. Red Bull, however, will aid in MLB’s weaknesses and promote fun and energy to youth, and the international audience.
How Do We Do This?
Get Gerrit Cole and Max Verstappen speaking on camera together on a semi-regular basis. Promote these two as friends who are seeking their first World Championships in their respective sports, building up how these two are unique and extraordinary among their peers. Create 20-minute specials where the two have bonding conversations from topics ranging from upbringing, favorite foods/movies/activities, and their competitive mindset/work ethic.
Show Max Verstappen in a Yankee hat, and Gerrit Cole in a Red Bull racing suit. Promote each other’s brand and participate in each other’s activity. Use the offseason to send Cole to Europe to train like an F1 driver and see how Verstappen can teach him to drive a car around a track. Bring Verstappen to Yankee Stadium and have Cole and the Yankees teach him how to play baseball. These two (and their teammates) need to been seen smiling, interacting, and having fun at Yankee Stadium and at Red Bull Ring (or Silverstone, for more historical significance). Most importantly: let Red Bull helm the video production! They will make this feel important, exciting, and bring it to a young global audience in a way that MLB cannot!
To see how Red Bull Racing markets their brand’s identity and other locations follow this link:
For an example of how Red Bull Racing markets Verstappen and his former teammate Daniel Riccardo with an emphasis on humor, follow this link
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Main image credit Embed from Getty Images